Champions League final heads to Porto

UEFA has confirmed today (Thursday) that the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea on May 29 will now take place at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto instead of Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium.

The decision will allow Manchester City and Chelsea fans to attend the final, which would not have been possible if the match had remained in Istanbul after the UK government last week placed Turkey on its red list of COVID-19 travel destinations.

The match will take place at the home of FC Porto following an offer from the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) and the Portuguese authorities. Manchester City and Chelsea have each been allocated 6,000 tickets, with the overall stadium capacity still being finalised.

UEFA said in a statement that “everything needed to be done” to ensure supporters of the two finalists could attend after a year of fans being locked out of stadiums. The Dragão has a capacity of around 50,000.

UEFA had discussed moving the match to England but, despite the efforts from the English Football Association (FA) and other authorities, it was not possible to achieve the necessary exemptions from UK quarantine arrangements for UEFA staff, media and sponsors. Wembley had been pinpointed as a potential host for the match but the stadium will stage the Championship play-off final on May 29 as originally planned.

With Portugal a green list destination for England, the FPF and the Portuguese authorities have stepped in and worked with UEFA to offer an alternative venue for the Champions League final.

Istanbul had been due to stage the 2020 Champions League final before UEFA took the decision to stage a final eight-style tournament in Portugal amid the ongoing difficulties posed by COVID-19. UEFA said it was grateful for the work done by the Turkish football authorities to ensure the successful staging of the final in Istanbul, stating that it will “urgently look into future opportunities” for the city.

UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said: “After the year that fans have endured, it is not right that they don’t have the chance to watch their teams in the biggest game of the season. Once again we have turned to our friends in Portugal to help both UEFA and the Champions League and I am, as always, very grateful to the FPF and the Portuguese Government for agreeing to stage the match at such short notice.

“They have worked tirelessly in very tight time constraints in finding solutions for the many challenges that hosting a game of this magnitude presents. Whenever there has been an obstacle, they have been creative in the solutions presented and the success of staging this year’s final is entirely down to their hard work and persistence.”

Čeferin added: “We accept that the decision of the British Government to place Turkey on the red list for travel was taken in good faith and in the best interests of protecting its citizens from the spread of the virus but it also presented us with a major challenge in staging a final featuring two English teams.

“The difficulties of moving the final are great and the FA and the authorities made every effort to try to stage the match in England and I would like to thank them for their work in trying to make it happen.

“The Turkish football federation and the Turkish authorities have recognised UEFA’s efforts to give fans of the competing clubs a chance to watch the game. The Turkish Football Federation and the authorities have always been reliable partners of UEFA and Turkey has hosted many UEFA events over the years with great success. I hope to be in Istanbul and Turkey for a Champions League final and many other events in the near future.”

The news comes after plans were announced for the return of fans in Portugal’s Primeira Liga for the final round of 2020-21 fixtures next week. Clubs will be able to open their stadiums at 10% capacity and fans will be required to return a negative COVID-19 test beforehand.

Arrangements for the sale of Champions League final tickets to the general public will start on May 24.

Image: Mister No/CC BY 3.0/Edited for size